Harlem's first great soapbox orator, Hubert H. Harrison was a brilliant and influential writer, educator, and movement builder during the early decades of the 20th century. In the words of civil rights activist A. Philip Randolph, he was "the father of Harlem radicalism." In 1917, Harrison founded the first newspaper (The Voice) of the “New Negro Movement”. Beginning in 1920, he became the principal editor of Marcus Garvey's Negro World, which he reshaped into a leading political and literary publication of the era. Harrison was a prolific speaker and writer in the 1920s, during which time he founded the International Colored Unity League and edited The Voice of the Negro.

Harrison's unexpected death following an appendectomy on December 17, 1927, left behind his widow, four daughters, and a young son. A massive Harlem funeral spoke to his contemporary importance, but Harrison's work eventually faded from prominence. His radicalism on questions of race, class, religion, war, democracy, literature and the arts - and the fact that he was a forthright critic of individuals, organizations, and ideas of influence, were major reasons, along with his early death and the fact that he had no long-lasting organizational ties, for his subsequent neglect.